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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of May 5, 2009

This newsletter is about the Hickory City Council meeting that I attended this past week. City council meetings are held on the first and third Tuesdays of each Month in the Council Chambers of the Julian Whitener building.

At the bottom right of this page under main information links is a Hickory's Local Government link. If you click on that link, it takes you to our city’s website, at the bottom of the page you will see the future dates for meetings scheduled for this year.

At the top of the page, if you click on the “Documents” link, you will find historic Agenda and Minutes links. Agendas show what is on the docket for the meeting of that date. The Minutes is an actual summary of the proceedings of the meeting of that date.

Here is a summary of the agenda of the 5/5/2009 meeting. There were a couple of important items that were discussed at this meeting and the details are listed further below.

Invocation by Alderman Danny Seaver

Special Presentations:
A. Presentation of Proclamation to Master Police Officer Victor Camacho of the Hickory Police Department Declaring the Week of May 10 – 16, 2009 as National Police Week in the City of Hickory - Officer Camacho was injured in April of last year while trying to pull over a motocyclist. Here is a link to WSOC-TV's report about the accident. Mayor Wright stated that the purpose of this proclamation was to recognize those officers killed in the line of duty. 900,000 officers serve in communities across the country. 118 serve in the Hickory Police Department. There are approximately 60,000 assaults on officers that take place each year, resulting in approximately 16,000 injuries. Since 1972 more than 18,000 officers have been killed in the line of duty. 133 officers were killed in 2008. Officer Camacho had a few short words that he spoke about 2 local officers lost in the line of duty.

B. Presentation of Proclamation to Bebe Leitch, President of the Hickory Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau Recognizing the Week of May 9 – 17, 2009 as Travel & Tourism Week in the City of Hickory. Mayor Wright stated that the travel industry ranked as the 5th largest employer in the U.S. in 2008. It contributed $352 million in revenue towards the local Hickory Metro economy in 2007. 3,500 jobs are directly attributable to travel and tourism in the metro area. Travel and Tourism generated $62 million of payroll in the metro area in 2007. Ms. Bebe Leitch invited the community to drop by the Convention and Visitors Bureau on Monday, May 11th between 10am and 3pm to educate citizens about how the CVB markets the area.

Consent Agenda:
A. Proclamation Declaring the Week of May 17 – 23, 2009 as “National Public Works Week” in the City of Hickory

B. Transfer of Cemetery Lot in Oakwood Cemetery From Gladys R. White to Joyce Lyons (Document Prepared by Attorney Steve A. Austin)

C. Transfer of Cemetery Lots in Oakwood Cemetery From Shirley Herman Anthony Administratrix, C.T.A. of the Estate of Arlena O. Wyke to Brenda W. Yost (Document Prepared by Attorney Shirley Herman Anthony)

D. Approve Vacant Building Revitalization Grant to Maddadle, LLC for Property Located at 326 2nd Avenue, NW in the Amount of $20,805 - This Grant Program was established by City Council in September, 2008 and provides matching funds up to $25,000 for projects seeking to renovate and rehabilitate vacant buildings. The applicant plans to renovate the facility into a professional psychology practice and plan to invest approximately $41,610.00 towards expenses eligible for grant funding. The Redevelopment Committee reviewed the application and recommends approval.

E. Budget Ordinance Amendment No. 18
Budget a total of $15,455 ($799, $10,437, $4,219) of insurance claim checks from Trident Insurance Company. These insurance claims are for damage sustained to three police vehicles. Budget a $25 Library donation to purchase a picture book for beginning readers. This is a memorial book for Shelby the “Paws to Read” dog. Budget a total of $1,700 of International Springfest donations in the International Council expenditure line item. Donations were received from the following: Unifour Anesthesia Associates -$200, Friitala/Branaa-$200, Grasche- $200, Auto Fitness Center-$250, Wilkes Cleaners-$100, Sarstedt-$250, and Popplemann-$500. Budget a total of $4,729 of Parks and Recreation Revenue in the Parks and Recreation Departmental Supplies line item. This revenue is generated from the registration fees for the 2009 Unifour Senior Games which is organized by the Parks and Recreation Department.

New Business - Public Hearings:
1. Approval to Apply for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant in the Amount of $198,536.00 - The City of Hickory and Catawba County have received notification of approval to receive a combined allocation of $266,031 under the 2009 Recovery Justice Assistance Grant Program (JAG). The JAG Program is a formula-based grant through the Office of Justice Programs/Bureau of Justice Assistance that utilizes Uniform Crime Reporting statistics of all law enforcement agencies to determine eligibility for direct federal grant awards. Under the joint application with Catawba County, the City of Hickory is eligible for a direct award of $198,536.00 with no match required. The Hickory Police Department recommends using the grant funds for the purchase of a SkyWatch Tower, the hiring of two part-time Telecommunicators for the Communication Center at HPD, to make improvements to the current police firing range, to purchase two Rofin Polilight Flares and the purchase of a video analysis enhancement system. This public hearing is required for public comment prior to Council approval of spending of these funds. Police Chief Adkins spoke about the above items. The Skywatch Tower will be used at special events. It is transportable, can extend 2 stories tall, has four cameras, and can be manned by one person. The 2 telecommunicators would be part timers. They are needed because calls have increased by 50,000 calls since 10 years ago. In that same span the city has added 14 officers. There are presently 12 communicators and 1 supervisor, which is the same as 10 years ago. The Firing Range upgrade would allow for a new targeting system, help officers work towards their qualifications, and enhance tactical training. The two portable light sources will help detect trace evidence and will be carried in CSI vehicles. The Video Analysis Enhancement System will utilize software to help enhance video in less than ideal conditions, such as lowlight situations or to find video patterns, which will allow for forensic video DNA.

The Hound knows that these are all excellent investments in the community's security. I have been impressed by presentations from the Police Department. They always have their ducks in a row on presentations. You might not agree with their assessments sometimes, but it's always bam, bam, bam and they aren't wasting your time. They get right to the heart of the matter.

Departmental Reports
1. Discussion of Small Business Job Growth Team - City manager Berry opened the discussion and talked about the one-page outline and referred generally that the outline was created from some conversations that he had had with the Mayor. The Mayor stated, "We have all heard it said that small business is going to be the backbone of the economic recovery. We would like to think that if we create an atmosphere that is good to do business, that's a worthy thing to do. And I feel we have addressed that., but it is time to specifically address the growth in the number of small business jobs to the extent we can influence it. And we need to consider the effects of our population on vacant buildings and vacant houses, whether there are ways to make sure our population is growing in an orderly and beneficial way from an economic development standpoint."

Manager Berry said there was a simple mission statement. This will be a group of volunteers consisting of special interests and small business owners that can help identify directions that the city can go into. It was pretty much agreed upon by Manager Berry and Asst. manager Surratt that this would be a 6 to 9 month process.

Alder Meisner said we need to do anything we can to help and that it is hard for small businessmen to obtain capital from banks right now. Alder Patton stated that it would be a good thing to get together existing small businessmen. Could this include people in the ETJ? Alder Seaver asked what was the definition of small business? Manager Berry stated that he thinks that it is up to Council (to define the parameters). He modeled this plan after the Land Use plan (HBC).

The Mayor stated that attaching a budget shows people get an idea of how big or small the (city's) vision is. He doesn't want this to be small or about overhead. Right now there is no vision. Alder Fox stated that there is nothing wrong with not having a budget. It is hard to put a price on business people coming together and what they can gain from each other. The idea factor is more important.

Alder Meisner talked about the trials and tribulations of small business owners and the issue of business retention. Alder Hoyle asked if this was about existing businesses or new businesses. The Mayor said he didn't want to set up incubators, because they will compete with existing businesses. Alder Seaver asked if we could do a small survey of existing business owners. The Mayor said that he believes this (process) will evolve. Alder Patton said this has to be fleshed out (specifics) before they can go to business owners and ask them to volunteer to participate in the process. The Mayor said we're all in this together and that staff should move forward on this.

The Hound likes this idea, especially when it comes to the idea of innovation. There were a lot of comments about the idea not being fleshed out and witnesses would have to agree. We can all see that we are going to have to start thinking outside of the box, because the status quo has not worked for years. I believe that this process has to be open ended and accommodative to the broadest participation and dialogue possible. The internet would be an excellent tool to facilitate such an open-minded goal.

Where I worry about the sentiments of council is when they start focusing so much attention and commentary towards existing business owners. Accepting their input as the Gospel is a further continuance and definition of the status quo and I don't mean that to be insulting. While these business owners are integral to the process, they are but one variable element when it comes to solving this area's economic woes. I believe that it will take sources from all over the globe, with new ideas, to bring us out of this malaise.

I also don't like hearing the idea of business retention espoused. Folks, another word for that is bail-out. That would be an open money pit. Who is going to decide who deserves the bail-out. That would be an arbitrary process that will lead to a community full of people with hard feelings.

The City better not try to pick winners and losers in this process. We need a clean slate. We do need existing business owners to provide their expertise about this area's existing business conditions, so that information is available to upstarts. It also will provide feedback about the city's processes concerning commerce. What is in it for existing businesses? A growing economy will naturally increase patrons and thus revenues. They can also look to create synergistic off shoots of their personal business, that might close the loop on a needed product or service or reduce the cost of having to rely on far away trading partners.

Where the city can truly help is by creating a clearing house of information and connectivity to help with business plans and streamlining the processes so that new businesses can get their operations up and running sooner. If time is money and money is tight, then naturally helping upstarts get their operations up and running sooner will give that business greater odds to succeed.

Existing entrepreneurs can help facilitate capital infusion. Maybe the aspiring proprietor doesn't have the capital to start a business, but if he has a viable project, maybe the city's clearing house can point this wannabe businessman in the direction of capitalists that will at least listen. They might be willing to invest in something they consider "The Right Idea." From this, I am sure that we can get a few new businesses off of the ground.

I agree with the Mayor on the details of what he defined as incubators. The city does not need to play the role of Washington and have our local city bureaucracy fully intertwined with private enterprise. The city can facilitate the start-up process, but when the city starts dictating commerce and artificially supporting day-to-day operations, then we begin heading down a slippery slope.

A committee is important to wrap up the process, but input must be from open ended sources. I believe that economic commerce is like water. It follows the path of least resistance. Closed ended processes create barriers and any stifling bureaucratic interests will assure you that money will flow right on past this community. We must ensure that this does not happen.


Anonymous said...

Sounds to me like it's the same old people doing the same old things to get themselves re-elected. Doesn't Rudy run again this year?

How about putting some of the "loyal opposition" on this committee, to see if it can truly be innovative instead of appointing the same old people?

I'd like to be optimistic here -- but having dealt with most of the players, it looks to me as though we're simply shuffling the same deck of cards to see if fate will hand us a better hand this time.

Problem is, the dealers are crooked and stacking the deck.

harryhipps said...

It seems a bit suspicious to me that this is emerging 6 months before an election; however, better late than never. Of course, they will do everything to seem to be moving forward when we've been spinning our wheels since the turn of the millenia. But I'll support it as long as the city is looking for new businesses and not propping up politically connected leaches.

Anonymous said...

I didn't see any mention of Hickory's Economic Development Director being involved. I'm sure he'll do whatever Mick and Rudy tell him to do anyway.

James Thomas Shell said...

Who is Hickory's Economic Development Director? I don't believe I have ever seen this person and I know that I have never met them.

Anonymous said...

Todd Hefner - Community and Economic Development Director

James Thomas Shell said...

I did not realize that was Mr. Hefner's title. Very Interesting, I just thought he was the community development director.

Anonymous said...

Nope. His phone number is the contact number listed on the billboards at Fairgrove Business Park.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Oh well, if the link doesn't work, just go to the city of Hickory's website and find Economic Development under the Departments heading.